ABC - Health News

RyanJLane/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Properly buckling kids into car seats can be tricky, yet it's a vital safety measure all parents should master in the event of a crash.

Michelle Pratt, a mom of two and a nationally certified car seat safety technician, said her mission is to keep children safe by training parents in the complicated process of installation, harnessing and more.

"When I was leaving the hospital, I was certain that someone would show me how to buckle in my little 7-pound baby and that did not happen," said Pratt, who shares advice with her 26,800 Instagram followers on @safeintheseat.

"The reality is that of the 200 families that I've met with, 100% of them have had some type of misuse," she added.

Placing a child in a car seat correctly can help decrease the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70%, according to nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Worldwide and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Installing the car seat properly is as equally important as safely strapping a child in, Lorrie Walker, a technical adviser at Safe Kids told GMA in 2019.

"Every car seat on the market is safe to use. It all meets the general safety requirements. But if you buy it and you don't know how to use it, that's not going to save your child's life in a crash."

Here are safety tips according to Pratt, the AAP and Safe Kids.


Practice, practice


Practice harnessing on a doll, a teddy bear or your friend's baby into the actual car seat, Pratt said, adding how no one helps you when you leave the hospital after giving birth.

While buckling your child into their car seat, test that the harness is snug enough where you cannot pinch any slack between your fingers and the harness straps over your child's shoulders.

The harness chest clip should be placed at the center of the chest and even with your child's armpits.

Where and how to install a car seat into your car


A car seat should always be installed in the back seat. Pratt said the middle seat is considered the safest position because it's farthest from any point of impact.

Pratt said car seat manuals are fully detailed with information on how to install your car seat. They can be difficult to understand, though.

To use LATCH, the AAP advises fastening the lower anchor connectors to lower anchors located in between where the back seat cushions meet. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and can be used in addition to or in place of a vehicle’s seat belts. According to the Insurance Institute, LATCH was required in vehicles and on child car seats starting in 2002.

All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds, or the total weight of the car seat and child.

As always, check the car seat manufacturer's recommendations or car seat label for the maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors.

Following your car seat's instructions, pull LATCH strap tightly, applying a significant amount of weight into the seat. The same should be done if using a seat belt.

If you install the car seat using the vehicle's seat belt, make sure the seat belt locks to keep a tight fit. Check your vehicle owner's manual and car seat instructions to ensure you are using the seat belt correctly.

When asking for professional help with installation, Pratt said be aware that not all firefighters and police officers are qualified.

Ask each facility if they have Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) who are certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to properly install a car seat. Certified technicians can sometimes be found at fire stations, hospitals, police stations or community events in your area.

On their website, Safe Kids Worldwide offers an ultimate car seat safety guide complete with car seat buying tips, safe installation tips and more. All the information is based on your child's age and weight.

In what position?


In 2018, the AAP issued new car seat safety guidelines encouraging parents to keep their children's car seats in the rear-facing position until they have reached the manufacturer's height or weight limits in order to protect their developing heads, necks and spines in the event of a crash. Previous guidance for rear-facing car seats was age 2.

When a child has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat, the child should then use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Car seat manufacturers now produce seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, so now most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday.

When a child's whose weight or height is greater than the forward-facing limit for their car seat, parents should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, "typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 through 12 years of age," according to the AAP.

Never let your baby sleep in the car seat unsupervised, or for long periods of time outside your vehicle


According to the AAP's safe sleep recommendations, parents should not use a car seat as an alternative to a crib or bassinet.

After reaching a destination, children who are still sleeping should be removed from the car seat and placed in a crib or bassinet.

Follow car seat manufacturer's guidelines, and make sure the device is installed at a 45-degree angle in the vehicle.

These tips are crucial for preventing positional asphyxiation in car seats -- or accidental suffocation.

Steer clear of car seat accessories


Pratt said to say no to anything that doesn’t come with your car seat.

"Not only do you not need it, but it could jeopardize the safety of your child," the expert writes on Instagram. "Neck or head inserts like these are so so dangerous. They could easily slip behind your little one’s head and cause their airway to be compromised."

Should your child wear a jacket in the seat?


Pratt said you'll want only a thin layer between your child's body and the harness/seatbelt.

Bulky coasts give a false sense of tightness and if there's a crash, a child's body will move where it's unsafe.

A tight harness close to the body is the best way to restrict movement and prevent injury or worse, Pratt wrote on Instagram

Pratt also recommends safe product options for keeping warm in a car or booster seat on her Instagram page.

Know that car seats do expire


Car seats can expire if safety standards change or there's new technology advances.

Time, as well as sun exposure to plastic can also cause wear and tear. And as the AAP notes, you should not use a car seat unless you know its history.

"Do not use a car seat that has been in a crash, has been recalled, is too old (check the expiration date or use 6 years from date of manufacture if there is no expiration date), has any cracks in its frame or is missing parts," the AAP states on its website.

You can find out if your car seat has been recalled by calling the manufacturer or the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or by going to the NHTSA website at www.safercar.gov.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



kali9/iStock(PROVO, Utah) -- It appears when dealing with children that the carrot wields more power than the stick. Turns out, children focus on tasks up to 30% more when teachers praise them for good behavior rather than reprimand them for being disruptive, according to a new study from Brigham Young University.

"What we found would be for teachers to praise more and reprimand less if they want to improve student behavior in elementary school classrooms," said Dr. Paul Caldarella, leader of the study, from the David O. McKay School of Education at BYU.

Caldarella added, "Unfortunately, previous research has shown that teachers tend to reprimand students for problem behavior more than they praise students for appropriate behavior, which can have a negative effect and worsen student behavior."

Researchers attended 151 classes in 19 elementary schools across Missouri, Tennessee and Utah. During a three-year period they observed 2,536 students from kindergarten to sixth grade.

"The idea that praise can result in greater focus than can punishment is not surprising. In fact, it's backed by science," said Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and cofounder of Brainstorm, Stanford's Lab for Mental Health Innovation.

"When kids receive praise, it activates certain feel-good chemicals in the brain. These chemicals can enhance functioning in the parts of the brain that are responsible for things like focus, attention, planning and problem-solving," she explained.

Not only does praise have positive effects on the brain, experts believe that punishment can actually have the opposite effect.

"When punishment is used, it can activate the part of the brain responsible for fear," said Chaudhary, who was not involved in the study. "When fear responses are activated, the chemicals released can actually cloud the parts of the brain that are needed for focus."

There appears to be no magical ratio of praise to criticism that leads to the greatest focus in classrooms, though.

"Researchers in the past have given a specific ratio of positive statements to negative students should receive, but what we found out was that there is no particular ratio," said Caldarella. "The higher the praise the better the results."

This study suggests that praise is an important tool for teachers and can help motivate students to work harder, especially children who are disruptive in class or struggle academically.

"Using praise over punishment would have benefits outside of the classroom as well. Anyone in a caregiving role should be thinking about this day-to-day -- from parents to coaches to after-school mentors to pediatricians," said Chaudhary.

Chaudhary noted that constructive criticism isn't off the table, as long as it's done right: "Instead of punishment, constructive criticism can be used, but it should be balanced with praise in order to create a safe environment where kids are motivated to focus, learn and grow."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



UT Southwestern Medical Center(ARLINGTON, Texas) -- A principal in Texas proved that age, gender and race are no obstacles when it comes to fulfilling a life-saving good deed.

Sarah Schecter, head of lower school at The Oakridge School in Arlington, donated her kidney to Nate Jones, a parent whose three children attend the school and who was in dire need of a transplant, according to ABC News Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV.

"You think of a thousand reasons why you shouldn't do it," she told WFAA. "But it just couldn't be avoided."

The educator said being generous, kind and brave are all "a big part" of what the school teaches its students, along with talking to them about character.

Jones told WFAA that he noticed a change in his eyesight in 2018 that progressed quickly and prompted a visit to the eye doctor.

Jones went to a retina specialist who urged him to see his primary care physician right away, and WFAA said they sent him to the ER, where he was diagnosed with acute renal failure and informed that a transplant was his only option.

"How do you go from being healthy with no headaches, no nothing -- and now you need a transplant?" the father of three questioned.

His wife, Amenze Jones, told WFAA, "He just didn't have any symptoms -- no symptoms at all."

While the family said they kept their situation largely private, Jones' wife said she mentioned his diagnosis to their children's teachers and the principal in case it distracted them from their studies in class. William Jones is in third grade, his older sister, Sydney, is in fourth grade, and the oldest brother, Aaron, is in eighth grade.

"Very shortly after she told me -- like within days or maybe even hours -- I felt a heavy burden," Schecter said. "I didn't want to be the person to give a kidney -- who wants to go into surgery and do something crazy like that?"

She continued, "To think they could lose their dad when they're just kids in school, I just want them to have their dad."

After several months, the school head told Amenze Jones that she wanted to be tested to find out if she could be a donor for her husband.

The mother of three said, "No one was surprised that she would do something like this, and that just goes to show you the type of person she is."

"I know it's the right thing to do but, am I still scared? Yes," Schecter told WFAA six days prior to the big procedure. "I'm usually a very thinking kind of person, but on this -- it's just something I'm determined to do."

Schecter was a perfect match and the transplant operation was successfully completed on Jan. 13 at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The medical center captured a video of Schecter and Nate Jones when they saw each other for the first time post-surgery. The pair embraced in a tearful moment of relief and gratitude.

"Bless you. Bless you. Bless you," Jones said through tears. "I never thought this day would come."

While he pondered how he could ever "pay her back" and said that "words aren't enough," Schecter reminded him that now he should live out his life.

"There's something bold for you to do. God will give it to you," she told him. "You've got a good kidney now. Just go forward and do what you need to do."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



SDI Productions/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Human trafficking is a serious public health issue that negatively affects the well-being of individuals, families and communities. It is considered modern day slavery and may involve force, fraud or coercion in exchange for labor or commercial sex acts.

With over 40 million victims worldwide, and hundreds of thousands estimated in the U.S., it is considered a billion dollar global industry, according to the International Labor Organization. Domestically, a reported 50,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. yearly.

Health care professionals encounter victims of human trafficking, but little in the form of education is provided during training programs in the United States, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Prevention.

"In our review, we only found a few publications looking at best practices to integrate human trafficking information into the curriculum," said Dr. Juliana Kling, senior author and a physician of internal medicine within the division of women’s health at the Mayo Clinic. "We were really focused on the sex trafficking, specifically on identification and intervention for victims of sex trafficking."

When asked about the reasons for the possible gap in education geared towards health professionals on human trafficking, Kling said, "I think early on the role of the healthcare provider with human trafficking had not been clearly identified, it is now more of a public health agenda. I also think, at times, it can be difficult to teach as well."

This led a medical student at Mayo Clinic in Arizona to work with faculty and staff to develop a curriculum targeted to health care professionals to help identify and provide resources to victims of human trafficking.

According to Jennifer Talbott, a third-year medical student at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, "I felt that something had to be done. It was surprising that it wasn’t that much out there to train people taking care of patients with an issue so important, like human trafficking. There was this big hole that no one had quite filled yet."

Kling further described the importance of developing the human trafficking curriculum.

"Looking at how often human traffic victims work with health care professionals and present to the emergency rooms, it gives us the opportunity to identify if they are been trafficked and try to help them out. It’s important to teach students how to do that," she said.

The curriculum is integrated into the first year of a medical trainee’s history taking lessons and highlights the importance of looking at warning signs.

In regard to changes in the curriculum, Kling says, "We teach them to look at red flags like having 15 to 20 sexual partners in one month, if the patient has someone else in the room with them and the person does not want to leave and or unusual tattoos that many perpetrators use to mark their victims. We teach them to directly ask "have you ever been sold for money, shelter or food?"

Jennifer Talbott stated, "The curriculum teaches you to pay attention to vulnerable populations like LGBTQ, people with mental illness, and substance users. It doesn’t have to be obvious things like STIs or broken bones but subtle issues that need more attention like why a patient has not been able to get on top of manageable chronic issues like asthma or hypertension."

In the future, they plan on expanding the curriculum and integrating it into more training programs across the nation.

According to Talbott, "If you are dealing with patients for any length of time, this curriculum is applicable to you. This is a very large issue and everyone should have a basic understanding of what this is."

"We have already evaluated the curriculum with pre and post testing and will present and publish that information. We also plan to work with the American Medical Women Association and their affiliate organization, Physicians Against Trafficking Humans to look for best practice models and make it available nationwide," Kling said about the goals of the project.

The importance of identifying victims and providing resources is an international responsibility and starts with education.

Kling offered a very important warning, "One of the myths is that people think human trafficking is only an international girl’s problem but as we have seen lately with the increase in numbers locally and worldwide, it’s an everybody-problem. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, international or a U.S. citizen. It affects you. All of us needs to be aware."

If you or someone you know is being subjected to human trafficking contact the National Human Traffic Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) | Text 233733

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



jarun011/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is not ready to declare the new coronavirus a public health emergency, health officials said Tuesday, although the option is available should the situation in the U.S. change.

"I'll do it when it's appropriate," Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services said during a Tuesday news conference.

"It's very important to remember where we are right now," Azar continued, noting that only five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with coronavirus, all of whom traveled to Wuhan, China. There's been no evidence of human-to-human transmission documented in the U.S. so far.

Several Congress members have called on HHS to declare coronavirus a public health emergency in order to free up additional CDC funding to address the virus.

The death toll from the novel coronavirus has continued to climb in China as the outbreak spreads, with now at least 106 people dead and over 4,500 confirmed cases.

The number of dead from the new viral disease includes the first death in the Chinese capital, Beijing, along with two dozen others in central China's Hubei province, where the first cases were detected in December.

The epicenter of the outbreak is in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Hubei province, which Chinese authorities have placed on lockdown in an effort to contain the disease. With the influx of patients seeking treatment, the city is racing to build a brand new 1,000-bed hospital, which is slated to be completed by Feb. 3. A second 1,300-bed hospital is expected to be finished later in February.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced at a press conference Tuesday that train service to mainland China will be halted, starting at midnight Thursday. Lam said two train stations connecting the semi-autonomous Chinese city to the mainland would also be closed and some flights would be cancelled.

The outbreak has also spread overseas, with cases confirmed in more than a dozen other countries, including in the United States.

The U.S. Consulate in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, will evacuate its staff along with their families and some other Americans on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State. The spokesperson told ABC News that the charter flight will travel to California's Ontario International Airport, where all those on board will be screened for symptoms at the airport prior to leaving and also will be subject to additional screening, observation and monitoring requirements by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Department of State issued a new travel advisory on Monday urging Americans to reconsider travel to any part of China due to the disease, rather than just Wuhan and other affected areas. U.S. citizens are advised not to travel to Hubei province.

The new coronovirus causes symptoms similar to pneumonia that can range from mild, such as a slight cough, to more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Pureradiancephoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Opioid-related overdose deaths are on the rise, but individuals aged 15 to 24 have experienced a decline in treatment from the lifesaving medication buprenorphine, a new study finds.

Buprenorphine is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for opioid addiction. Researchers made their findings at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City by analyzing national data regarding buprenorphine prescriptions filled by people aged 15 to 80 years.

“Findings from the new study reveal that we have been making progress; between 2009 and 2018 the number of Americans who were treated with buprenorphine increased from 0.4 to 1.1 million,” said study leader Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University.

However, use of the medication fell in the youngest group from 1.76 to 1.40 per 1,000 people, which is about 20%.

The findings also showed that the prescription strength and length of buprenorphine treatment were also lower among those aged 15 to 24 than among older Americans.

"These findings for young people are particularly worrisome, given that their decrease in buprenorphine treatment occurred during a period when there was an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths for this age group," Olfson said in a university news release.

Per Dr. Rais Vohra, UCSF Professor of Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacy at UCSF Fresno as well as Medical Director of the Fresno/Madera Division of the California Poison Control System states that, “one reason why buprenorphine treatment isn’t increasing among young people is that many addiction centers as well as psychiatrists only treat adults and few pediatricians have a waiver to prescribe it.”

Current policy restricts the use of buprenorphine by requiring physicians to obtain a special “X waiver” before prescribing it by going through training and agreeing to limits on the number of patients they will treat.

Olfson went on to state that, “some physicians may be reluctant to prescribe buprenorphine to younger people with serious opioid problems because they prefer to try detox followed by drug-free approaches first rather than trying to maintain them on buprenorphine, which is an opioid.”

The problem with this approach is that detox followed by drug free approaches are typically less effective than an FDA approved medication such as buprenorphine.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids which includes prescription pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl.

"Our results highlight the critical need to improve buprenorphine treatment services, especially for the youngest with opioid use disorder," Olfson said.

“Fortunately there are programs like the California Bridge Program that are working to improve the landscape by creating 24/7 access points where any patient with opioid addiction can walk into an emergency room and start addiction treatment right away,” said Vohra. “At the same time they are also working to train doctors to be X waivered to truly curb this epidemic.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



PeopleImages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A baby's first words are an important milestone for many parents.

However, for some kids dubbed "late talkers," parents may be left worried and turn to speech therapists for help.

Instead of having to travel to a doctor's office, some parents opt for a more accessible way to help their kids by seeking advice from speech therapists like the Speech Sisters -- Brooke Dwyer and Bridget Hilsberg -- on Instagram.

The sisters have 20 years of combined experience and have run a private practice for eight years, working with hundreds of families to help get their kids who are late talkers communicating.

"A late talker is a child who understands language, but they're just not meeting their communication milestones," Dwyer told ABC News' Good Morning America. "So they probably don't have as many words as they should have for their age."

On their Instagram, Brooke and Bridget share practical tips for parents to help get their kids chatting.

They even offer courses for parents on their website, like the "Late Talker Course" and the "Talk On Track" course, that parents can start with their little ones from birth to 14 months so they can learn to meet language milestones.

For Christine Levin's 18-month-old son Everett, the Speech Sisters' methods worked, ultimately helping him grow his vocabulary from just five words to 35.

"It feels good to see your son's language grow and have him happy and able to communicate," Levin told GMA.

Here are some of their tips to help get babies talking:

1. Baby talk is beneficial

While there are mixed opinions about baby talk, the Speech Sisters say that it can be beneficial if used the right way. According to Bridget and Brooke, baby talk, also known as "motherse," "parentese" or "infant-directed speech," helps babies learn. And when you speak to babies in this manner, they become more engaged.

The right way: Use a high-pitched, exaggerated speech containing real words and correct grammar like, "You want water in your cup?"

The wrong way: using made up words with incorrect sounds or grammar. It may sound like this, "You want a 'wittle' wawa in your 'cuppie'?"

2. Read with your baby

Reading with babies is one of the best ways to keep them engaged so they can learn more language, the Speech Sisters say.

And the best way to do this is to read to them when they are facing you. When a baby is facing you, they're able to watch your mouth as you say the words and see your expressions and gestures. By facing each other, you're making reading more interactive and research shows that having back-and-forth interactions improves language.

Another tip that Bridget and Brooke encourage parents to try is to make the book "come alive" by being silly and having fun.

"If there is a glass of water in the book, drink it! If there is food in the book, eat it! And you don't have to read all the words when your baby is little, just highlight a few key words," they said.

3. Again and again

The first instinct for many parents trying to get their kids to talk is to repeatedly say a word or an object, like, "Say 'truck,' say 'truck.'" While it's natural to resort to this, the Speech Sisters say it puts pressure on babies.

Instead of telling kids to say anything repeatedly, it's best to repeat a word at least five times during an interaction, that way more opportunities are given for babies to learn.

4. Parents need to wait

Another instinct that parents turn to is finishing sentences for their kids when they don't talk for themselves.

"It's unnatural," said Brooke. "It's hard to wait, you wanna talk for him, especially when he's not talking for himself."

So instead of speaking for your child, Brooke and Bridget say to wait about five to 10 seconds to give them the opportunity to talk. And if they're not saying anything after that time is over, you can give them the word.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



mrtom-uk/iStock(ATLANTA) -- While the death toll for the new coronavirus has crossed 100 people people in China and put the world on edge, it is not spreading in the U.S., health officials said in news conference Monday.

"We understand that many people in the Unites States are worried about this virus," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

"At this time, in the U.S., the virus is not spreading in the community," she added. "For that reason we continue to believe that the immediate health risk from the new virus to the general public is low at this time.”

In the U.S., 110 individuals from 26 states are being investigated to determine whether they have coronavirus. Of those individuals, 32 have tested negative, five have tested positive, and the remaining test results are pending.

No new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed overnight, according to the CDC, and all five cases were in people who had traveled to China. Two of those five cases are in Southern California and Chicago, Washington state and Arizona have each reported one coronavirus case.

The CDC is currently advising Americans to avoid non-essential travel to China's Hubei Province and Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the outbreak. Travelers to China, particularly older adults and those with underlying health problems, should discuss their travel plans with their health care providers. Anyone traveling in China should avoid contact with sick people, and should avoid animals, animal markets and animal products, such as uncooked meat. They should also wash their hands thoroughly and often.

The State Department issued a new travel advisory Monday, urging U.S. travelers to "reconsider travel" to China because of coronavirus.

Five U.S. airports, in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, continue to screen passengers from Wuhan for pneumonia-like symptoms, such as fever and respiratory problems. So far, airports have screened about 2,400 passengers, with screenings declining following strict travel bans and a quarantine in Wuhan.

The purpose of those airport screenings is two-fold, according to Messonnier. Health officials want to quickly detect and respond to respiratory illness in travelers coming from Wuhan. They also want to educate travelers who've been to Wuhan, so that if they develop symptoms later, they know to call their health care provider to get checked out.

The CDC is in the process of developing a real-time diagnostic test to identify the virus and is hoping to quickly roll that test out to states. For now, all samples are being sent to the CDC in Atlanta, a process which takes about a day, from the time clinicians and the CDC agree to test a patient for coronavirus until results come back from Atlanta. Other countries are doing similar centralized testing, Messonnier explained. While speed is important, accurate testing is the agency's priority.

While a report in the Lancet, published Jan. 24, suggested that people who contract coronavirus might be able spread the disease before they develop symptoms, Messonnier maintained that the CDC has "no clear evidence" of patients' being infectious before symptom onset. For now, the virus' incubation period is believed to be between 2 and 14 days.

In China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, there have been more than 4,535 cases and 106 deaths. In addition to the cases in the United States, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Macao, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, France, Germany, Vietnam, Nepal and Sri Lanka have all confirmed travel-related cases in their respective countries.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. urged the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a formal public health emergency in the United States. Such a designation would free up money for the CDC to preemptively prepare for the virus to potentially spread in the U.S.

"If we have learned anything from the risks the new viruses pose to public health, it is a 'stitch in time saves nine,' and the more we can do to be proactive, the better off the public will be," Schumer said during a news conference Jan. 26.

A recent budget deal negotiated by Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of House Appropriations Committee, increased the federal Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund from $50 million to $85 million, but in order to use that money, HHS has declared a public health emergency.

"The critical thing about these specific dollars is that the CDC has full discretion," Schumer said. "The agency can use them for whatever activities it deems appropriate, so long as they inform Congress. This kind of flexible funding needs to be unlocked now should this outbreak worsen."

The World Health Organization did not declare a public health emergency of international concern last week, after deliberating for two days over the decision.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



OLJensa/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Say what you want about social media, but it from time to time, it saves lives.

Such was the case when Shelby Dunham realized her daughter was choking.

"I look over and her face was turning blue and she was trying to gasp for air but she couldn't. She looked frantic. So in that moment, I completely panicked," Dunham told Good Morning America.

But she said suddenly, "I realized I knew what to do," thanks to a video on Instagram from ER nurse Shannon Tripp.

Tripp -- a pediatric nurse and mom of four -- had to save her own son, Jack, when he was just 9 months old and choked on a piece of hard candy he had accidentally gotten a hold of. Tripp gave him back blow after back blow until finally, the peppermint came shooting out.

"I thought to myself, 'What if a mom hadn't known what to do?' I would have lost my son," Tripp told Good Morning America.

That night, she recorded a video to teach other moms what to do if that happened to them. She now regularly shares medical tips on her Instagram account. That video was eventually seen by Dunham and 500,00 other people.

"I dropped her on the ground and I did exactly what Shannon's demonstration says to do," Dunham said. "And within seconds it was out and she was fine. And we both just cried and I was so thankful. It was 100% because of Shannon's highlight," Dunham said.

Signs of choking


Dr. Jennifer Ashton said the first sign is bluish discoloration around the lips. "That is a critical sign that they are not getting enough oxygen," she told GMA.

Other signs: chest and ribs are pulling inward; unresponsive or unconscious; and an inability to cry.

Ashton gave an overview CPR lesson that can be viewed here, but she encourages all parents to learn for themselves, saying, "It could save a life."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



jarun011/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Trump administration is being urged to declare a formal public health emergency as a fifth case of the deadly coronavirus in the United States was confirmed and the death toll from the disease rose to 80 in China, where officials cautioned that the spread of the never-before-seen illness appears to be getting stronger.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is asking Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to declare a public health emergency to free up money for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to battle the virus before it becomes an American pandemic.

"If we have learned anything from the risks the new viruses pose to public health, it is a 'stitch in time saves nine,' and the more we can do to be proactive, the better off the public will be," Schumer said during a news conference on Sunday.

“The CDC has been doing a tremendous job so far at being proactive and working around the clock to protect public health, but if we are going to make sure they can sustain this pace and remain at-the-ready should the outbreak get worse, they will need immediate access to critical federal funds that at the present time they remain unable to access," Schumer said. "That is why, today, I am urging HHS to follow the CDC’s proactive lead: declare a formal public health emergency for the coronavirus."

Schumer's request comes as the latest U.S. cases of the virus were announced over the weekend. A patient in Arizona and two in Southern California tested positive for the virus, which has caused worldwide alarm, officials said.

Health officials in Orange County, California, and Los Angeles County announced they are each treating one patient for the virus. The patient in Arizona is a student at Arizona State University but does not live in university housing, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

The Orange County, Los Angeles County and Arizona patients, who were not identified, had all recently returned to the United States after traveling in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the illness, authorities said. All three patients were in isolation at undisclosed hospitals, officials said.

The local officials are working with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health to reach people who have come in close contact with the patients.

"There is no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County. The current risk of local transmission remains low," Orange County officials said in a statement.

The California cases follow one near Seattle, where a man in his 30s was hospitalized after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, officials said. Tests also confirmed that a woman in her 60s in Chicago had contracted the disease, officials said. Both patients had recently traveled to China.

Health authorities in Texas are investigating a suspected coronavirus case in a Texas A&M student, according to the local health department. The student, who recently traveled to Wuhan, went to an emergency department Wednesday with a cough and congestion.

Surveillance for the coronavirus at international airports in the U.S. has intensified, with airports in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago screening travelers from Wuhan.

Symptoms of the coronavirus resemble pneumonia and include difficulty breathing, fever and lesions on the lungs, which are revealed through chest X-rays, according to the CDC. Other symptoms mirror the flu and include a runny nose, headaches, coughing, a sore throat and fever, according to the CDC.

By comparison, influenza has killed 8,200 people in the United States, including 54 children, since the flu season began in October, according to preliminary estimates released by the CDC on Friday. The agency estimated that so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses with 140,000 of the cases prompting hospitalizations.

Schumer said a recent budget deal he and Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of House Appropriations Committee, negotiated boosted the federal Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund from $50 million to $85 million.

But the CDC cannot access the funds until the Department of Health and Human Services declares a public health emergency, Schumer said.

“The critical thing about these specific dollars is that the CDC has full discretion," Schumer said. "The agency can use them for whatever activities it deems appropriate, so long as they inform Congress. This kind of flexible funding needs to be unlocked now should this outbreak worsen.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada announced on Sunday that the country is dealing with its first case of coronavirus in a patient in the Province of Ontario.

"The patient who recently returned from Wuhan, China, is isolated and under care," Canadian health officials said in a statement.

Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, said the case was not unexpected.

"Although we now have a case in Canada, the risk to Canadians remains low," Tam said at a news conference.

Besides Canada and the United States, health officials in France, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

At least 80 people have died from the virus in China, and tests have confirmed that another 2,744 people in the country have contracted the illness.

The majority of the cases have been found in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province and a city with a population of more than 11 million people. About 9 million people in the city have been put on lockdown as a precaution, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang revealed said at a news conference on Sunday.

Meanwhile, authorities in Hong Kong have banned anyone who has been in the Hubei province in the last 14 days.

Coronavirus, a family of viruses that include SARS, MERS and the common cold, can jump from animal to human hosts.

Scientists have competing theories about the animal source behind the virus. In addition to bats, which scientists have speculated about since the beginning of the outbreak, and which were implicated in the SARS outbreak, a group of researchers published a paper last week, theorizing that snakes are the most likely reservoir behind the outbreak. Neither theory has been confirmed.

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LanaSweet/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Plant-based diets are already one of the major wellness trends of 2020.

Burger chains from McDonald's to Burger King are now offering plant-based burgers, restaurants have developed plant-based menus and meat was taken off the menu at this year's Golden Globes.

The term plant-based is everywhere, but what does it really mean and how can the diet affect your health?

ABC News' Good Morning America went to four experts for answers.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is a way of eating that consists mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits.

Thomas Colin Campbell, a Cornell University biochemist, claims responsibility for giving the plant-based way of eating its name. He said he coined the term in 1980 to "help present his research on diet to skeptical colleagues at the National Institutes of Health," according to The New York Times.

"I wanted to emphasize that my work and ideas were coming totally from science and not any sort of ethical or philosophical consideration," he told the newspaper.

Is a plant-based diet different from a vegan diet?

Yes, a plant-based diet consists of eating few to no animal foods, while a vegan diet eliminates all animal foods and products -- everything from meat and leather products to eggs and cheese, according to Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, an obesity medicine physician scientist at Harvard Medical School.

Plant-based diets are also different from vegetarian diets, which eliminate all meat, fish and poultry, according to Stanford.

While religious, cultural, or ethical reasons often motivate veganism and vegetarianism, plant-based diets are often done for health and environmental reasons.

Plant-based diets also often place an emphasis as well on whole foods.

"There is a way to be healthy in any of those," said Stanford. "What I say to my patients is to find the best right thing for them because everyone’s body is different and everyone’s body responds differently."

What are the benefits of plant-based eating?

Everything from better blood pressure to better skin, according to Maya Feller, a New York-based registered dietitian.

"Those who follow a whole foods plant-based diet tend to have better metabolic profiles, like improved fasting blood sugars, lower circulating blood lipids and better blood pressure, as well as a reduced risk of developing chronic illnesses," she told GMA earlier this month. "Plus, many of the vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and veggies contribute to healthy skin, like the lycopene in tomatoes that helps protect skin from sun damage, and vitamin C in sweet potatoes, which smooths wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen."

"Cutting back on animal products also means skipping much of their saturated fats, which are notorious for clogging pores," she added. "On top of the health benefits, eating plant-based cuts down on animal products, which helps combat climate change."

Why is there so much interest in plant-based diets?

Plant-based diets have been steadily gaining acclaim for the last several years, often landing atop the annual best diet rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

The 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives also really put plant-based diets into the mainstream. The documentary was made by Brian Wendel, who attended a conference on nutrition in 2001, began to follow a plant-based diet and then brought the idea to the masses with the documentary and a best-selling book.

"The information has been there for a long time, at least from a health perspective, and we’ve just helped bring it to a mass audience," Wendel told GMA. "I became convinced of the health argument back in 2001 and just did it overnight. Up until that point, I had been eating animal products every day."

More recently, another documentary, The Game Changers, has pushed plant-based diets into the spotlight. The 2019 documentary, produced by James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, shows the journey of a former MMA fighter who gives up meat.

Another factor is the argument that eating plant-based is better for the environment, according to Deirdre K Tobias, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

"We see how much land it takes to supply and grow a single hamburger, for example," she said. "I think that awareness has been really eye-opening for a lot of people who may have disregarded the dietary advice for health reasons."

What are good things to eat on a plant-based diet?

Wendel, of Forks Over Knives, places an emphasis on eating whole, minimally processed foods within a plant-based diet.

"For me the best guide is does the food still look somewhat like it does when you take it out of the ground? When you cook a potato, it still looks like a potato," he said. "The more a food is like that the more you can lean on that in your diet and lifestyle, for health benefits."

Of course fresh vegetables and fruits are a big part of a plant-based diet, as well as nuts, whole grains, legumes, even seafood and the occasional meat product.

Wendel emphasizes eating more than just vegetables on a plant-based diet to ensure you are taking in enough calories.

"Make starchy foods -- beans, rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, chickpeas -- the center of the plate because that has the energy to sustain you," he said. "And then surround it with vegetables."

What about all the packaged foods advertised as 'plant-based'?

The emphasis on eating whole foods on a plant-based diet raises the question of what to make of all the packaged plant-based products on the market, from kale chips to meat-free burgers.

"So many diets that are restrictive or have a buzz name have nothing in their description about the quality of their food, and that’s something that is really important," said Tobias. "A lot of these plant-based products might still be highly processed and have a lot of sodium and saturated fats."

"Be careful about plant-based being used as a marketing tool," she said.

Tobias recommends being a "savvy shopper" and shopping for your plant-based diet in part of the grocery store where fruits and vegetables live, the produce aisle.

"Make your own plant-based foods because vegetables are there for you," she said. "You don’t have to be purchasing packaged, processed foods."

Are there any downsides to a plant-based diet?


Not really, according to the experts.

"For heart disease, diabetes, cancer, all of the major chronic diseases, there are no downsides to eliminating meat products from your diet for any of those," said Tobias. "If anything, the evidence shows that by going plant-based you would be benefiting your long-term survival and reducing the risk of those diseases."

"Fruits and vegetables, fiber, nuts and legume have also all been proven to be good for weight loss and to keep weight off long-term," she said.

Is there a way to be plant-based but still eat some meat?

Yes, the definition of plant-based is that your diet is based on plants but allows room for other foods from time to time.

"If you’re not ready to give up meat entirely, still even reducing it to once in a while would have a lot of great benefits," said Tobias. "The science isn’t there to say a steak or a burger once in a while is horrible for you, it’s the daily consumption that’s problematic."

One option is the flexitarian diet which encourages people to try alternative meat options, like tofu, but leaves room for flexibility if you can't quite fully give up meat. The diet was promoted by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner in a 2009 book that says you can reap the benefits of a plant-heavy diet even if you eat meat occasionally, according to U.S. News and World Report, which ranked the diet number two on its 2020 best diets list.

This plant-heavy diet focuses on adding five food groups -- "new meat," fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and sugar and spices -- to your diet, instead of taking foods away.

The "new meat" food group includes tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds and eggs, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Do I need to take supplements on a plant-based diet?

One of the biggest questions around a plant-based diet is whether it can provide enough protein, according to Wendel.

His take is that, yes, it absolutely can.

"I think anyone on a plant-based diet will tell you that getting protein is not hard to do," he said. "And there really is no evidence that you need a concentrated source of protein as long as you are eating enough calories and eating whole, healthy foods."

"We [at Forks Over Knives] talk about just eating the right kinds of foods, just getting enough calories in and from there nature has it figured out," Wendel added.

Plant-based sources of protein include everything from legumes and vegetables to nuts, hemp seeds and grains like lentils, beans and quinoa.

Further down the spectrum from plant-based, if you are following a strict vegan diet it is necessary to take vitamin B12, according to Stanford.

Vitamin B12 is not made by the body and is found in animal-based foods, which is why a supplement is needed, she explained.

How do I know if a plant-based diet is right for me?

All the experts agreed that you'll know a plant-based diet is working for you if you feel well and you are able to stick to it long-term.

"Your body has the answers," said Stanford. "Pay attention to your body and don’t pay attention to someone else and how they say their body responded."

The experts also noted there may be some trial and error involved so stay open to finding what works best for you.

What if I think eating vegetables seems so boring?


All the experts also dispelled the myth that a plant-based diet is boring or tasteless, citing the availability now of creative and unique plant-based recipes online and in cookbooks.

"If you’re new to eating vegetables, there are a lot of ways to make them delicious other than the steamed broccoli that you might think of," said Tobias. "There are so many ways to make vegetables and fruits and grains delicious."

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. has now confirmed four cases of the coronavirus in U.S. patients this week. Two patients are located in California, one in Washington state and one in Chicago.

All of the patients had traveled to Wuhan, China, the city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

 Authorities in Wuhan, China, imposed quarantine-like restrictions on the city of 11 million Jan. 21, as they raced to stop the spread of a new coronavirus that's popping up in countries around the world. Those restrictions were extended to additional cities later in the week, cutting off travel to more than 20 million people during Chinese New Year, when millions were expected to be traveling.

In Wuhan, where hospitals are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients seeking treatment, the city has broken ground on a brand new 1,000-bed hospital, which is fast-tracked to be completed by Feb. 3.

As as the situation rapidly unfolds, here's what you need to know:

How is the virus transmitted?

Chinese health authorities confirmed that the virus has been transmitted between humans Jan. 20, increasing concern over the millions of people expected to travel for Chinese New Year Year this week.

While many of the original reports of the virus in Wuhan were among people who worked at or visited a seafood and live-animal market, cases among people who weren't connected to the market have mounted in recent weeks.

That market was closed and fumigated on Jan. 1.

There is evidence of "limited human-to-human transmission" of the new virus, according to the World Health Organization, but not enough to evaluate the extent of that human transmission.

Adding to concerns are 15 cases of the disease in health care workers in Wuhan, which health experts previously said was a key population at risk for being sickened, as they were during previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS.

The new coronavirus is in the same family as SARS, MERS and the common cold. Coronaviruses often circulate among animals and can jump from animal to human.

In rare cases, those viruses can mutate and spread from person to person.

How many people have been affected?

As it stands, more than 2,500 cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States, with the overwhelming majority in China. All cases reported internationally were exported from Wuhan.

Fifty-six deaths have been reported in China.

What should I know about the coronavirus cases in the U.S.?

The first case of coronavirus reported in the U.S. was in a patient in his 30s from Washington state, the CDC announced Jan. 21. Laboratory testing at the CDC in Atlanta confirmed the patient was infected with it. He's currently hospitalized, in good condition, health officials in Washington said.

Although the patient had traveled to Wuhan, he said did not visit the market at the center of the outbreak.

A second case, in a Chicago resident in her 60s, was announced during a CDC news conference Friday. She had similarly traveled to Wuhan.

"We understand that some people are worried about this virus and how it may impact Americans," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

"The immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time," Messonnier said.

Two cases reported this weekend are from Californian, one in Los Angeles County and another in Orange County.

How is the world responding?

Countries around the world have stepped up airport screenings in response to the rapidly evolving outbreak.

The U.S. has been screening passengers arriving from Wuhan in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York airports since Jan. 17, and has since expanded those screenings to Chicago and Atlanta airports, according to CDC officials.

Airports in Sydney, Singapore and Moscow also will be conducting screenings.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific airline has been distributing face masks and antiseptic wipes to passengers traveling from Wuhan to Hong Kong, and China Air has issued flight waivers to passengers flying to or from Wuhan.

North Korea announced it would be closing its borders to foreign tourists until further notice beginning on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization met in Geneva this week to determine whether to declare the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. After two days of deliberation, the committee decided not to declare a public health emergency.

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jarun011/iStock(CHICAGO) -- A second U.S. case of the new coronavirus has been confirmed in a patient in Chicago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The patient, a woman in her 60s and a Chicago resident, had traveled to Wuhan, China, in late December. She was admitted to the hospital and is in stable condition, according to Illinois health officials.

The patient called her doctor ahead of time before seeking treatment and has not taken public transportation or attended any large gatherings, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health said Friday.

"This is a single travel-associated case. Not a local emergency," Arwady said. "There is no need for the general public to change their behavior in any way based on this news."

"We understand that some people are worried about this virus and how it may impact Americans," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said at a Friday news briefing.

"The immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time," Messonnier said.

Sixty-three people in the U.S. from 22 states are being evaluated to determine if they have coronavirus. Of those individuals, 11 have tested negative and two have tested positive for the virus. In New York State, four people are being tested for coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing Friday. Of those four, one individual tested negative for the virus and three others are waiting for diagnostic test results.

Patient samples are currently being tested at the CDC in Atlanta, and health officials are working to get those tests to states, which would speed diagnosis times.

As of Jan. 23, roughly 2,000 passengers entering the country had been screened at airports. No cases of coronavirus have been detected from the airport screenings so far.

U.S. health officials reported the first U.S. case of the coronavirus Jan. 21, when it was diagnosed in a Washington state man in his 30s who had recently traveled to Wuhan.

A total of 830 cases of the coronavirus have been reported to date in China. In addition, China's National Health Commission reports that three cases have been reported in Thailand, two have been reported in Vietnam, and one case apiece has been reported in Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Hospitals in Wuhan overwhelmed by influx of patients


Hospitals in China are scrambling to treat the large influx of patients seeking treatment. “Shortage of medical supplies, request help!” Wuhan's Children's Hospital posted on Weibo, China's social network, in a plea for items like surgical masks, disposable clothing, gloves and goggles. Several other hospitals have posted similar requests.

In the meantime, Wuhan broke ground on a brand new, 1,000-bed hospital to address the outbreak, expected to be completed by Feb. 3. The city is following in the footsteps of Beijing, where a similar fast-tracked hospital was built to address the 2003 SARS outbreak.

U.S. State Department issues China travel warning


This announcement comes as the U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to enter China's Hubei province due to the coronavirus, as Chinese authorities announced Thursday that the death toll from the virus has increased to 25.

The U.S. is also pulling out most of its diplomats and their families from the consulate general in Wuhan, the Hubei city of 11 million where cases of the new virus were first discovered.

The State Department issued a new travel advisory late Thursday, declaring the Hubei region Level 4, Do Not Travel, the strongest of the four travel warning levels issued by the U.S. government. That puts it on par with hot spots and war zones like North Korea, Syria, and Iran.

China's National Health Commission announced Thursday that the death toll from the virus has increased to 25 from the previously-reported total of 17.

In response to the virus, officials at Shanghai Disneyland said that the giant theme park would close until further notice “in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests.” The move comes during one of the park's busiest weeks of the year.

The park, located in Pudong, Shanghai, is about a two-hour flight from Wuhan.

The U.S. State Department says China itself remains on travel advisory Level 2, Exercise Increased Caution, because of arbitrary detentions and law enforcement concerns, including the so-called exit bans where U.S. citizens are prevented from leaving the country, often for the government to gain leverage over relatives that it is after.

A senior State Department official said the U.S. had seen “positive signs” in China’s response to stem the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, but added that China has lacked transparency in the past and has shown it can be more preoccupied with saving face publicly than admitting and treating the problem.

“We’re concerned, but cautiously optimistic,” the official said.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC News.


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tulcarion/iStock(NEW YORK) -- What started off as a viral infection only in China in December is now spreading throughout Asia and has made its way to the United States. The novel coronavirus -- "2019-nCoV"-- in the same class as the SARS and MARS viruses, is now linked to the death of at least 26 people and has infected hundreds more worldwide as it continues to spread.

Transportation has been shut down in Wuhan, China, and neighboring cities. Five major U.S. airports have started mandatory screenings for direct and indirect flights from Wuhan including John F. Kennedy in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

With the recent outbreak, images from across the world show people wearing masks to ward off illness when traveling. However, wearing a mask is not a practice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for preventing infection in healthy travelers.

There is little benefit to wearing a surgical type mask, and may even put you at greater risk for spreading infection, infectious disease doctors told ABC News.

"There isn’t a lot of data to support if there is any benefit to wearing a mask in the public setting. It is currently unclear," advised Dr. Jonathan Grein, a board-certified infectious disease physician and director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He says masks are used by doctors and nurses when dealing directly with sick people. "We use them in the health care setting for two main reasons: to contain secretions of individuals who have respiratory infections and to protect healthcare workers providing direct care to patients."

If a patient starts to develop symptoms, a surgical mask has been shown to limit spreading germs, which is not only polite but could help limit a dangerous outbreak.

"Many respiratory viruses are spread by large respiratory droplets which are filtered by surgical masks," said Dr. Jennifer Wu, assistant professor of infectious disease at the Emory University School of Medicine and former medical epidemiologist at the CDC. "If someone has a cold or the flu or another viral respiratory infection, wearing a simple mask will decrease the risk of that person spreading infection."

Health care professionals and those in direct contact with the sick are advised to wear N95 medical respirator masks. These masks are rated for higher protection.

"Industrial masks [for example, ones worn for construction] or other occupational respirators are not designed for healthcare use or infection control. Medical N95 respirators are only recommended for health care personnel that are fit-tested and trained in their use," says Dr. Wu.

"With N95 respirators, if you wear them properly, the work of breathing is very difficult and should not be worn for a long time," said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and medical director of National Foundation of Medical Diseases. "Painter’s masks are very flimsy and aren’t any good for preventing someone from respiratory infection. The CDC is very skeptical for these reasons."

But what about passengers on trains and planes trying to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season or during an outbreak like the coronavirus?

"Masks are not recommended for general protection if you are not ill," said Wu.

There may even be a risk to wearing a mask preventively.

"The mask itself can become contaminated and serve as a source of infection actually doing more harm than good," said Grein. "If wearing a mask, I caution touching it."

Instead, he advises, "avoid travel if you are ill, sneeze or cough into your sleeve and not your hand, and always washing your hands frequently."

"It’s also very important to get the flu shot," he said to protect yourself and those around you.

The CDC recommends following its current guidelines for safe travel during the coronavirus outbreak which include:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider.
  • Medical personnel in the hospital taking care of sick patients should use contact precautions and wear an N95 disposable face piece respirator.

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Darwin Brandis/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A coalition of health insurers pledged $55 million to help manufacture generic prescription drugs at lower prices, as the skyrocketing cost of medication has triggered a national reckoning.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and 18 independently operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies announced Thursday they were partnering with the nonprofit generic drug manufacturer Civica Rx to create a subsidiary dedicated to "lowering the cost of select generic drugs," according to a joint statement.

The new subsidiary is being formed "in response to the impact of high drug costs on the health of Americans and the overall affordability of health care," the statement added.

Their first batch of generic medicines should become available by early 2022.

The move comes at a time when the pharmaceutical industry and lawmakers have faced immense pressure to lower the cost of prescription drugs. In 2019, a record 51 laws in 33 states were enacted to address drug prices and access. As the 2020 presidential campaigns ramp up, health care costs remains a key issue for voters.

"We believe everyone should have access to health care, no matter who they are or where they live," Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of BCBSA, said in a statement.

He added that he hopes "others will join us to achieve the change Americans want to see in the health care system."

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